Altered fecal microbiota composition in the Flinders Sensitive Line rat model of depression

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Rationale: The gut microbiota is increasingly recognized as a potential mediator of psychiatric diseases. Depressed patients have been shown to have a different microbiota composition compared with healthy controls, and several lines of research now aim to restore this dysbiosis. To develop novel treatments, preclinical models may provide novel mechanistic insights.

Objective and methods: We characterized the gut microbiota of male adult Flinders Sensitive Line (FSL) rats, an animal model of depression, and their controls, Flinders Resistant Line (FRL) rats using 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing. Moreover, we performed fecal microbiota transplantation (using saline or pooled FRL/FSL feces) to study if the potential strain-specific differences could be transferred from one strain to the other, and if these differences were reflected in their depressive-like behavior in the Forced Swim Test.

Results: FSL rats tended to have lower bacterial richness and altered relative abundances of several bacterial phyla, families, and species, including higher Proteobacteria and lower Elusimicrobia and Saccharibacteria. There was a clear separation between FRL and FSL rat strains, but no effect of treatment, i.e. the bacterial composition of FSL rats receiving FRL feces was still more similar to FSL and not FRL rats. Similarly, the transplantation did not reverse behavioral differences in the Forced Swim Test, although FSL feces significantly increased immobility compared with saline.

Conclusions: Our study showed that the gut microbiota composition of the depressive-like rats markedly differed from their controls, which may be of value for future microbiota-targeted work in this and similar animal models.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1445-1457
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - May 2019

    Research areas

  • 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing, Depression, Fecal microbiota transplantation, Gut-brain axis, Rats, Transgenic, RNA, Ribosomal, 16S/genetics, Rats, Male, Depression/genetics, Animals, Feces/microbiology, Gastrointestinal Microbiome/physiology, Swimming/physiology, Disease Models, Animal

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